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Local News

May 14, 2013

Chobani's thirst for water grows

(Continued)

That triggered an investigation, which culminated in December 2012, with Chobani agreeing to pay a $130,000 negotiated settlement to the SRBC for its unauthorized water usage.

Last year, the company expanded its Columbus plant as part of a $134 million project that included a $3.8 million assistance package from the Chenango County Industrial Development Agency. In December, company founder Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant, was reported by Bloomberg News Service to have a net worth of $1.1 billion. Chobani that month opened a new $450 million complex in Twins Falls, Idaho.

Obleski said her agency is still reviewing the engineering reports that Chobani has submitted in conjunction with its application for the water withdrawal. In response to questions, she acknowledged that it was theoretically possible the range of potential outcomes could include a limit even what below the levels of water Chobani is currently using.

She also acknowledged in response to questions that the mission of the SRBC is to guard the sustainability of the river basin.

“Commission approvals are structured to ensure that no adverse impacts are anticipated by the operation of this project, and that the project is physically feasible, does not conflict with or adversely affect the Commission’s Comprehensive Plan, and does not adversely influence the present or future use and development of the water resources of the basin,” she said.

The commission has also been trying to ascertain whether Chobani’s withdrawal of water was related to reports of dry wells experienced by some homewners in nearby South Edmeston in Otsego County.

The Daily Star reported last week that a preliminary review of aquifer testing data found that “mechanical problems” with the wells were the “root cause” of those problems. The findings came from an engineering study commissioned by Chobani, and the SRBC said it has not yet completed its review of that study.

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